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Most scams, such as sub-prime mortgages and email scams, victimize adults. But custody scams victimize children. When government fails to protect children it throws open the doors to private contractors—lawyers and clinicians—who enrich themselves at the expense of children. (More about this child and the mother who tried to protect her appears below.)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Gift of the Mommies, A True Story

A military mom discovers her 2-year-old son has been sexually abused while she was gone.

The Gift of the Mommies
by Anne Grant
Christmas always makes it worse. Pictures of Mary embracing her baby Jesus remind mothers like “Grace” in Rhode Island and “Claire” in Massachusetts of the children they lost to abusers in America’s failed family courts. Their sons were nine in 2009, when they met in a support group I ran. Claire noticed Grace sitting silently across the room in rumpled blue scrubs with dark circles under her eyes.  
That December, for the first time in five years, a judge let Grace keep her son, “Benjamin,” overnight on Christmas Eve. The boy wanted to spend Christmas day with her, too, but the judge said he must return to his father, a troubled man with influential connections who often left the boy home alone.
Grace blew kisses and waved goodbye, then went home in tears to spend Christmas in bed with full-blown symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Her phone rang. It was Claire inviting her to Massachusetts. If they could not be with their sons that day, at least they could be together.
Grace climbed out of bed with a bold idea. She looked through Benjamin’s toys and found a brand new one for Claire’s son. What 9-year-old would not adore an archeologist’s tool kit for digging up dinosaurs?
Claire, a veteran of three wars since 1990, flew in Panama, the Persian Gulf, and Iraq. Though she holds a medal for meritorious service, she could not protect her two-year-old son, “Connor,” from the sexual abuse he described in agitated baby talk when she got home from Iraq. Family court resists mothers who introduce evidence of child sex abuse. Claire’s husband and his sister won custody of Connor. Claire had not seen the boy for three years.
It took Grace ninety minutes to drive to Claire’s home and another half hour to convince her it was time to see her son. Claire knew Connor would love the archaeologist tools. She wrapped the present carefully, adding Connor’s favorite stickers and a Christmas card. She included the birthday card she had not been allowed to give him. She put on her prettiest mommy clothes--a red and black fleece jacket, warm pants, and snow boots.
Bundled into Grace’s car, Claire asked quietly: "How are we going to do this?” Grace wasn't sure. Claire had no restraining order against her, just years of legal abuse and abiding fear that if she got close to her son’s father and aunt, she would kill them for what they were doing to her son.        
The father’s house was dark when they got there. Grace drove around it and saw no sign that a child lived inside. They discovered the father’s car parked at his sister’s home. Grace knew they needed a police officer, or they would get blamed for something they did not do.
The mommies searched for a squad car. Grace pulled out her business card and told the officer she was a psychologist. She had tried to contact the father, but he was not home. She wanted the boy to see his mother on Christmas. Shouldn’t every child have that right?
The officer quizzed them and finally agreed to go along. Grace asked him not to stand nearby for fear of alarming the child. He watched from just beyond the next house. By then streetlights were coming on.
Instead of going to the door, Claire stood by Grace’s car under the streetlight looking radiantly beautiful in her mommy clothes. Her prematurely white hair flared out like luminescent angel wings.
Grace took Claire’s present to the back door. She rang the bell and held her breath. A scurry of young feet sounded inside. The door opened, and Connor stood before her.
Grace smiled and handed him the present: "Connor, this is from your mommy. If you look over my shoulder, she is standing there under the light." He leaned forward, his eyes searching.
"That’s my mommy!" Connor exclaimed, and Grace replied: "Yes, that’s your mommy." He waved frantically, and Claire waved back laughing and weeping. No matter what scary things they had told him about her, he was not afraid. Grace felt the enormity of their love and thought of her own son.
"Nooooo!" A screech erupted as the boy’s aunt barreled toward the door. She snatched the box from his hands.
Grace spoke firmly to the woman: "Look over my right shoulder. A police officer is there for us, and I will call him if I need to.”
Pulling the boy away, the aunt retreated into the house.
Grace reached her car and turned to see an unnerving sight. Connor had squeezed behind the Christmas tree by the big window in the living room and pressed his fingers to the glass as if drowning in a submerged car against an unyielding weight of water. He pressed so hard she could see the whites of his hands. He leaned in, pushing his face and his entire body against the window for one last look.
Claire stood under the streetlight waving and weeping. Suddenly the house went dark; the boy disappeared. Claire got into Grace’s car and they pulled away.  
The mommies had delivered their gift.

About the mother and child pictured at the top

On February 21, 1992, Rhode Island Family Court's Chief Judge Jeremiah Jeremiah gave this two-year-old to the sole custody and possession of her father despite his history of domestic violence and failure to pay child support. The father, a police officer, brought false charges against his ex-wife, first saying she was a drug addict. (Twenty-two random tests proved she was not.) Then he had her arrested for bank fraud, then for filing a false report, then for sexual abuse, then for kidnapping. None of his charges stuck.

The child remained with her father and stepmother until 2003, when, at 14, she finally realized that her mother had not been a drug addict. The teenager persuaded Judge Stephen Capineri to let her return to her mother. There she began working on the painful issues of lifelong coercion and deception--a tangled knot of guilt and rage. Most painful has been her father’s continuing refusal to let her visit two dearly loved half-sisters, whom she has not seen since 2003.

She is one of countless children in Rhode Island subjected to severe emotional and physical trauma by Family Court when it helps abusive parents to maintain control over their families after divorce. When she turned 18 in 2007, she gave the Parenting Project permission to publish her picture on behalf of all children who have been held hostage by Rhode Island custody scams.

We are using this blog to provide links to stories that will help concerned people, including government officials, become aware of this form of child abuse and legal abuse. We must work together to improve the courts' ability to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in victims of domestic abuse who are trying to protect their children.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are looking for the story of the removal of "Molly and Sara," please visit

About the Author and the Cause

Parenting Project is a volunteer community service begun in 1996 at Mathewson Street United Methodist Church, Providence, RI, to focus on the needs of children at risk in Family Court custody cases. Our goal is to make Rhode Island's child protective system more effective, transparent, and accountable.

The Parenting Project coordinator, Anne Grant, a retired minister and former executive director of Rhode Island's largest shelter for battered women and their children, researches and writes about official actions that endanger children and the parents who try to protect them. She wrote a chapter on Rhode Island in Domestic Violence, Abuse, and Child Custody: Legal Strategies and Policy Issues, ed. Mo Therese Hannah, PhD, and Barry Goldstein, JD (Civic Research Institute, 2010).

Comments and corrections on anything written here may be sent in an email with no attachments to

Find out more about the crisis in custody courts here: provides forensic resources to end violence against women

about domestic violence in hague custody cases:

more about domestic violence in law enforcement: